Seward fisherman hopes to fill freezers for the needy this summer
Bob Candopoulos has a plan to help members of his community as they brace for impact with the threat of COVID-19 looming over the upcoming tourist season. A growing number of Alaskans are out of a job as workplaces close to slow the spread of the virus and Candopoulos is worried about the challenges that his town might face down the road. In response, the 'Saltwater Safari' fishing charter operator says he'll lend his boat, his gear and his time to fill the freezers of those who are in need- only asking that they cover the costs of fuel.
"First off, it's not free. I have to make sure expenses are covered," he told KTUU on Friday morning.
Candopolous has received hundreds of calls in the past week, many of which have been people requesting a slot on one of the trips; however, he says this offer is not meant to be a free trip for anyone who wants to go.
"This trip is going to be designed for people that are in bad shape. People that are hardest hit by the coronavirus. People in my community, in Seward, that are laid off," he said.
For that reason, people will not be able to call about booking a space on his fuel cost only trips. Instead, the captain will work with local churches to identify people who are most in need of food.
His boat, "The Legend," typically has space for 10-14 people, and Candopoulos estimates that he can run a day trip for about $800 in fuel. He feels that he can split that cost between needy passengers and in turn, get each of them 50-100 lbs of fish for the freezer - his way of easing the burdens that are likely to ahead for many who have lost work because of COVID-19. He plans to mostly focus on using these trips to provide food for families with children.
Candopoulos says he has also been contacted by charter operations in Valdez, Whittier, Homer and in his own town of Seward - who plan on providing similar services to their communities this summer as well. He's staying optimistic about whether his and other charter services will be able to salvage some of their summer business as well, but for now he's staying put at home and waiting to see what happens.
"I just want to help put some people at ease and the only way I know to do it is with my boats, and by fishing."